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Joe Paraskeva will enjoy Christmas meal at home with his family after indefinite prison sentence quashed

PUBLISHED: 18:14 17 December 2012

Joe Paraskeva and his sister a few years ago

Joe Paraskeva and his sister a few years ago

Archant

A mentally ill young man jailed indefinitely for setting fire to the psychiatric ward where he was supposed to have been looked after, is celebrating after his open-ended sentence was quashed last week – just in time for Christmas.

Joe Paraskeva, now 22, was put in prison two years ago after he admitted setting fire to a door using a ‘home-made blow torch’ of an aerosol and a cigarette lighter.

His bid to escape came less than 48 hours after he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Mr Paraskeva, who was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder in 2007, was handed indeterminate term of imprisonment for public protection (IPP), which is similar to a life sentence for the offence.

His mother Linda Morgan, from Stoke Newington protested he should have been treated as a mental health patient and never criminalised.

Mr Paraskeva received no therapeutic treatment in prison, where his health deteriorated further until he was transferred to a hospital last year following a psychiatric assessment paid for by his family.

Last Wednesday Lord Justice Gross overturned the IPP at the Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice, after hearing evidence Mr Paraskeva was suffering from a psychotic episode when the offence took place.

Because Joe had refused to leave his cell for an assessment to be carried out he had been considered “obstructive”, and no evidence about his mental state was considered by the judge when he was sentenced in 2010.

The IPP has been quashed and replaced with a hospital order, which will stay in place until he is well enough to return to the community.

“It’s good, I’m still shocked because so often for the last two years we’ve expected the worse to happen and actually it hasn’t happened, when we haven’t expected the worst to happen it has,” his mother told the Gazette immediately after the hearing.

“It’s very hard to overturn an IPP conviction,” she continued.

“There’s still a lot to be done on this, basically what’s happened to Joe shouldn’t happen to anyone else, knowing other people are going through this is an appalling injustice.”

Joe will now be able to enjoy a Christmas meal at home with his family, on escorted leave.

The hospital order will be reviewed every six months, and a restriction is in place to ensure he continues taking his medication indefinitely requiring the Secretary of State’s permission before he is released.

So many people turned out to support Mr Paraskeva last week that people were turned away from the public gallery.

He still has a conviction for arson, and Joe’s mother wants to see this overturned, because of the stigma and difficulties it will bring him for the rest of his life to have a serious criminal offence on his record.

Supporters of the Justice for Joe campaign have written to MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Diane Abbott, who is now looking to arrange a Parliamentary Committee to discuss the treatment of mental health patients.

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